Gender and Pulp Fiction

Spent some time today reading the ever-enlightening Tiger Beatdown. Her posts never fail to provoke new ideas and challenge my old assumptions. Her attacks on Quentin Tarantino are difficult to counter (and many have tried). They don't so much target his stylistic gifts, which are obvious to all, but rather his childish ideas and exploitative characters.

A lot of this boils down to the 'violence is cool' attitude, which leads to all kinds of moral problems. What's distressing is that I share Tarantino's fixation, and find his action set-pieces very enjoyable. When Hitler gets so pumped full of bullets that his face starts melting, a kind of mindless glee takes over me.

This reaction isn't so much intellectual - I hate Hitler and want him to die - but rather emotional - look, his face is MELTING! I would compare it to pulpy portrayals of sexiness (which can also be fraught with problems). I cannot help reacting, shall we say 'positively', to them.

I think I'm pretty much hardwired to find such sex and violence inherently interesting. What does the wiring, society or genetics, is a difficult question to which I think no one has the answer to. The important thing is that (massive generalization coming up) women don't find such representations of sex and violence in any way stimulating. I saw Tarantino's latest film with some friends of mine. The girls found the scalping business horrific. The guys thought it was great fun.

This is a massive problem for me, because I consider myself to be a semi-intelligent person who finds violence in the real world scary and in most cases a 'bad thing'. I'm also all for the ladybusiness, as Sady Doyle calls it. How do I square all of that with my inner sadism and perversity?

This contradiction may be one of the reasons why I worship the work of Joss Whedon so much. He provides a way out, as it were. He uses sex and violence to talk about feminism and family. He speaks about the things I am passionate about and gives me my pulpy thrills at the same time. It's neat, isn't it? Maybe too neat. Maybe Whedon just papers over the gaping contradiction, without resolving it.

A true resolution will only come if I am able to transform myself, and conquer my strange attraction to kick-ass violent sexy awesomeness. But is this even possible? Studying for my history degree has left me feeling pretty pessimistic.


  1. The important thing is that you never generalize to include all people of any gender in anything, overall. My problem lies more with cruelty than violence, personally. After lots of Feminist Ruminating, I decided I really, really like the end scene of Death Proof, for instance. You have to appreciate the violence there to like it; because after all, that's all that scene IS.

    Also, grats on history. I just got my BA in it last May.

  2. Tolmie22.9.09

    "The important thing is that (massive generalization coming up) women don't find such representations of sex and violence in any way stimulating."

    Labeling it as a massive generalization doesn't exactly excuse the fact that you're arguing with a massive generalization. Women don't find such representations of sex and violence in any way stimulating? Guess myself and the majority of my women friends better turn in our gender membership cards and get back to the love stories.

  3. I was worried about that statement, which is why I labeled it the way I did. But you're right, it's inexcusable. I slipped up. And I've been called out on it. My apologies.

    I've already written a whole post about how you should never divide humanity into two groups and slap 'male' and 'female' on them. I guess the practice is difficult to shake off...

    I hope this mistake doesn't annul the rest of my self-indulgent confessional. Sorry, I meant 'argument'. I thought I was onto something there, talking about weighty things...